Essay, Research Paper: Martin Luther And John Calvin


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Martin Luther and John Calvin were both very important leaders of the Protestant
Reformation. Although they were both against the Roman Catholic Church, they
brought about very different ideas in religion. Martin Luther founded the group
that are today known as Lutherans. He was ordained a priest in 1507. He dealt
with questions dealing with the structure of the church and with its moral
values. These questions were important in Luther's eyes, but the most important
was how to find favor with God. Luther tried to pray, fast, and repent, but he
never felt self-satisfaction. He eventually concluded that God's love was not a
prize or a reward to be earned or won, but a gift to be accepted. Luther further
concluded that until man stops trying to achieve God's favor through his own
achievements he cannot truly understand God's grace. Luther also had the idea
that one did not need a priest to talk to God, he believed that one could pray
and repent without the help of anyone else. This was the idea for which Luther
became famous. In 1517, Luther was involved in a controversy which involved
indulgences. Indulgences were the idea that a person could donate money to a
worthy cause in exchange for forgiveness of their sins. Luther opposed this idea
and stated his beliefs in his Ninety-Five Thesis, which he posted on the castle
door in Wittenberg, Germany. In 1519, Luther had a debate in Leipzig with Johann
Eck, a Roman Catholic theologian. During this debate, Luther denied the
supremacy of the Pope and stated that church councils could make mistakes. In
1521, Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X. Luther was then ordered to appear
before a council which demanded that he retract his teachings. Luther intern
stated that unless he was inspired to do so by scripture he would not
"since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience."
Possible the most important contribution of Luther to society was his
translation of the Bible into German. This made it possible for those who were
not fluent in Greek to study the Word of God. Luther also wrote another
influential work, Small Catechism of 1529, which was also known as the layman's
Bible. It summarized Christian beliefs into clear, simple language and told how
they should live. During the Reformation, Luther discovered that he had founded
a new church. He complained that his name should not be given to a group whose
name should only be taken from Christ; but Lutherans still believe in the
doctrines he originated. John Calvin teachings were especially influential in
Switzerland, England, Scotland, and colonial North America. Calvin's followers
in France were known as the Huguenots, and in England they were know as the
Puritans. During the Reformation, the people were insisting that anyone, not
just the hierarchy, be involved in political and religious policy making. This
inspired Calvin's teachings. The Calvinists developed political theories that
supported constitutional government, representative government, the right of
people to change their government, and the separation of civil and church
government. The Calvanists originally intended these ideas to apply to the
aristocracy, but democracy eventually arose in England and America. Calvin's
basic religious beliefs were the superiority of faith over good works, universal
priesthood of all believers, and the Bible as the basis of all Christian
teachings. The concept of universal priesthood was that all believers were
considered priests. This was unlike the Roman Catholic Church which had various
ranks of priests. Calvin also believed that men could only be saved by the grace
of God. He believed that only the Elect would be saved and that no one knew who
the Elect were. He also believed in Predestination, which is the idea that your
entire life is already planned for you. Many of Calvin's ideas were
controversial, but he improved the morals of the Church drastically. Calvin
developed the pattern of church government that is today known as Presbyterian.
Martin Luther and John Calvin achieved great results, but went about it in
different ways. Luther was more concerned with his own spirituality, and
therefore set an example by changing himself. Calvin on the other hand, was more
concerned with changing society and the government. They both believed in being
saved through God's grace, but Calvin believed in Predestination and the Elect.
Martin Luther and John Calvin were both key assets Protestant Reformation.
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